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The USMC Devil Dog conundrum

Started by jgawne , Jan 07 2009 10:01 AM

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#1 jgawne

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 10:01 AM

Interesting read about how the term started (or didn't)

http://german.about....a/germyth13.htm

#2 dvl

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 10:14 AM

On a similar note, the phrase "With the help of God and a few Marines" always rankled my grandfather. He claimed that it was his 3rd Division engineers that did what the Marines got credit for. I'll dig around and find a program from one of his unit's reunions that includes song lyrics speaking to this.

#3 Bob Hudson

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 10:32 AM

Yes interesting - his basic premise is that because the German word for "devil dogs" has been misspelled and because he has found no early written German references to Marine Devil Dogs, then the story is dubious. I would not expect any WWI written German reference to Marines being called Devil Dogs and as to misspellings by Americans - well that means nothing in terms of whether a legend is true.

devildogs.jpg

#4 Bob Hudson

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 10:52 AM

The earliest reference to Marines being calle "Teufel Hunden" is found in US newspapers on April 27, 1918 BEFORE the Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood campaigns, if I have my dates correct (well, the newspaper date is correct, but those battles seem to have been in May and June).

Here are a couple of the April 27, 1918 articles:

devildogsapril271918.jpg

devildogsapril271918story.jpg

A slightly longer version of the same story from another newspaper:

devildogsapril271918story2.jpg

There were a bunch of references to Devil Dogs in US newspapers by June 1918 including this one which says the name was given to Marines by German pilots!

devildogsacesfull.jpg

devildogsaces.jpg

#5 Bob Hudson

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 11:31 AM

One of the sources used by those who would debunk the wartime orign of "Devil Dogs" is writer H.L. Mencken who apparently decided the term was made up by Chicago newspaper correspondent Floyd Gibbons during or just after the Chateau-Thierry campaign.

Well I found out the term first surfaced in US newspapers not at the end of April 1918, but in mid-April: I have found at least three newspapers that used that little "Teufel Hunden" story on April 15 or 16, 1918:

devildogsapr161918.jpg

By June stories had started to "evolve" about the origin of the nickname:

devildogsjune1918.jpg

And by October 1918 a nickname that had been around since at least April 15th was being attributed to a campaign that happened in June!

devildogsoct1918.jpg

#6 bobgee

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 02:50 PM

Thanks, Bob, for setting the record straight!!!!! Note that in one column the phrase is stated as "Teufels Hunde" as is suggested is correct in the diatribe on German language and the "myth" of "Devil Dogs". I really don't know what this person's point was? I am myself surprised to find the title in newsprint months before Belleau Wood. I thought the phrase originated in that period. I have no plans to change my Avatar! B)
Semper Fi....Bob

Edited by bobgee, 07 January 2009 - 02:51 PM.


#7 Bob Hudson

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 03:13 PM

I am myself surprised to find the title in newsprint months before Belleau Wood. I thought the phrase originated in that period.


It seems that everyone thought it originated in the summer of 1918. Take a look at what's in the Wikipedia entry:

According to tradition in the United States Marine Corps, the title was assigned by German soldiers to U.S. Marines who fought in the Belleau Wood in 1918.

and

A very common story repeated in the Marine Corps holds that the nickname was adopted from the diary of a German soldier who was killed in action during the Battle of Belleau Wood.


and

Some Marines offer a more detailed story: The Battle of Belleau Wood was fought in France in the summer of 1918, in the midst of a heat wave. At some point during the battle, the Marines were ordered to take a hill occupied by German forces. As the Marines prepared to charge the hill, word came down from command that the Germans were preparing to use mustard gas to repel the attack. As a precaution, the Marines were ordered to put on their gas masks and take the hill. As the Marines fought their way up the hill, the heat caused them to sweat profusely, foam at the mouth and turned their eyes bloodshot. Additionally, at some points the hill was very steep, which caused the Marines to have to scramble on all fours to make their way up. Consequently, from the Germans' vantage point, they witnessed a pack of tenacious, growling figures whose lower faces were obscured by gas masks (which at the time had a prolonged shape that somewhat resembled a snout) but left open their bloodshot eyes and mouth foam seeping from the sides, advancing up the hill, sometimes on all fours, and killing everything in their way. As the legend goes, the German soldiers, upon seeing this spectacle, began to yell that they were being attacked by "dogs from hell."



and one more wrong story in wikipedia, which is actually comes from the official Marine Corps website at http://www.marines.m.....d Style.aspx:

USMC Master Sergeant Phil Mehringer (2008) explains it like this:

"The term "Devil Dog" has its origins at Belleau Wood. It was in a dispatch from the German front lines to their higher headquarters explaining the current battle conditions that described the fighting abilities of the new, fresh Americans as fighting like "Teufel Hunden" or "Hounds from Hell."



Marine Corps Times in 2008 ran a story which said:

Devil Dog has been a favorite Marine expression since the bloody Battle of Belleau Wood, a ferocious World War I engagement near Paris that also left the Corps with two of its most endearing quotes. “Retreat? Hell, we just got here,” exclaimed Capt. Lloyd W. Williams, as the French fell back. Similarly, then-Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly refused to let his men give up, shouting his motivating “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

As legend has it, this determination to win led one German prisoner to tell his captors the Marines reminded him of “Teufelshunde,” a German term translated as “devil dogs.”


So where did it come from in April 1918? Having spent my career in journalism and political communications I would guess that it could indeed have been uttered by a German prisoner and someone passed that along until someone in Washington DC hear about it, and said, "Damn, I like that!" and sent out that short April 1918 story that started a legend and created some myths.


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